My son was recently invited to his friend’s 6th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. He was quite excited, as this was one of his best friend’s parties and we never go to Chuck E. Cheese. This proved a bit of a challenge from a dietary standpoint. Naturally, all the kids would be eating pizza and cake and I certainly didn’t want my son to feel left out. I wanted him to enjoy the fun with the other kids. He is well aware of why we eat a healthy vegan diet – for our health, the animals and for the environment.
The birthday girl’s mom let me know they would be serving pizza, punch and cake and that they wouldn’t be able to do anything special for us, but if we had any ideas, she’d be happy to help. (At Chuck E. Cheese’s, you have to buy all their food for parties.)
So, on the way to the party, we stopped at Whole Foods and bought a bag of Daiya Mozzerella Cheese. In my opinion, it’s the best packaged vegan cheese for pizza. It’s a processed food that we rarely eat, but it’s perfect for just such occasions. We also bought a couple of individually boxed slices of vegan cake and brought them to the party. When we arrived, I gave the cheese to the Chuck E. Cheese server and asked her to make one of the pizzas with the Daiya vegan cheese along with all the vegetables they had (except onion – we’re not crazy about onion on pizza). She had never gotten that request before, but said OK. Our pizza came out late, but it was delicious and William was thrilled. He had three pieces along with half a piece of our vegan cake. I relented and let him have a little bit of lemonade, followed by a cup of water.
I had a giant, delicious oil-free salad from the salad bar along with a couple slices of our vegan pizza. My salad plate was piled high with romaine, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, kidney beans, black olives and sunflower seeds, with just a drizzle of red wine vinegar for a little fat-free flavor. Their unsweetened iced tea was not fresh-brewed, but it sufficed.
It was lovely to visit with other parents and enjoy a cruelty-free meal. A couple of the other parents were curious about our meal. I offered a sliced of pizza, which they happily enjoyed and were surprised that it was so tasty.
One of the other moms mentioned that her daughter chose to be vegetarian when she was just 4 years old for reasons of animal compassion. When the mother had asked her daughter why she didn’t want to eat meat, the little girl said, “Because that chicken was alive and because those eggs are going to be baby chickens.” The mother was very accepting and didn’t force her to eat meat, but just said that she had to choose another source of protein. She said that her daughter’s current favorite protein was black beans. I was incredibly impressed by her story, gave her my contact info and look forward to connecting in the future. You just never know when and how food will start a conversation!
Do you have any challenging situations when you’ve thought your plant-based diet might have been an issue, but then it ended up becoming an opportunity for growth and connection? If so, please leave a comment, below.
*Note: For those who are interested, I’m sure the pizza crust was not vegan or healthy, but on those rare occasions, my personal choice is to choose the BPO (best possible option) to maximize fun and enjoyment for ourselves and our children, while simultaneously reducing animal suffering and lightening our environmental impact. It’s not a perfect solution, but I want my son to learn how to integrate our values of health and compassion into daily living. Being aware of the impact of our food choices is both a responsibility and a gift and should never feel like a burden, especially to a 6-year old.